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Mao II

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  7,028 Ratings  ·  372 Reviews
"One of the most intelligent, grimly funny voices to comment on life in present-day America" (The New York Times), Don DeLillo presents an extraordinary new novel about words and images, novelists and terrorists, the mass mind and the arch-individualist. At the heart of the book is Bill Gray, a famous reclusive writer who escapes the failed novel he has been working on for ...more
Paperback, 254 pages
Published 1992 by Penguin Books (first published 1991)
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Sanjogsharma I think it's an amalgamation of DeLillo(most of the writerly stuff seems autobiographical) , Rushdie(Fatwa, goes to hiding) and Pynchon(not…moreI think it's an amalgamation of DeLillo(most of the writerly stuff seems autobiographical) , Rushdie(Fatwa, goes to hiding) and Pynchon(not photographed, recluse). (less)
Underworld by Don DeLilloWhite Noise by Don DeLilloLibra by Don DeLilloGreat Jones Street by Don DeLilloMao II by Don DeLillo
Don DeLillo ranked
5th out of 15 books — 26 voters
The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara KingsolverThe Corrections by Jonathan FranzenThe Things They Carried by Tim O'BrienThe Accidental Tourist by Anne TylerThe Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey
Pulitzer Prize Finalists
10th out of 68 books — 67 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Paquita Maria Sanchez
Jan 11, 2014 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
Don DeLillo is maybe my favorite novelist I would never recommend to anyone. Obviously, I don't mean he's not worth reading, but in order for his words to fulfill their collective mission in life, you have to read him the right way. Please believe me, I'm not some asshole who's saying you have to read him the way I do in how you interpret him or whether you like what you find, but you have to cast aside that "race for the finish-line" tendency we all have in us, and read uncomfortably close if y ...more
Jr Bacdayan
Mar 07, 2016 Jr Bacdayan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“The cult of Mao was the cult of the book.”

A writer is always said to bring wisdom and knowledge to his readers, to give them guidance, clarity of mind by using stories and instances regardless of truth as exemplars. But can the writer do the opposite and inspire terror, chaos, and bewilderment? It is often said that a writer sacrifices himself for the better fortune of his readers. Writing should be a beloved practice to those who are enamored by words, by language, and sometimes by the ability
...more
K.D. Absolutely
Jan 09, 2015 K.D. Absolutely rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to K.D. by: 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die (2006-2012)
What is the role of fiction writers in world peace? This might as well be the aching question that this book tried to answer. Or offered to answer. That, for me, is what made this book different from other books about novelists as the main protagonist. That, for me, is the reason why I really like this book.

This is my 3rd Don DeLillo and he is still to disappoint. This does not have the in-your-face sadness of his Falling Man (3 days) because it is not about 9/11 but this is not as artsy as the
...more
Szplug
Aug 06, 2011 Szplug rated it liked it
As with Underworld, the opening prologue—based upon an actual occurrence—of the mass-wedding of young and youngish couples of the Unification Church, held in Yankee Stadium and performed by the Reverend Sun Myung Moon, is one of the strongest points of the book. DeLillo excels at such portraits set to the page, crisply and potently capturing the atmosphere of this bizarre and fascinating spectacle, with its ordered ranks of veils and ties, the regimented structure and candle-row colors that deli ...more
Brad
I could feel DeLillo grappling with something important as I read this book, trying to deliver something profound, and that feeling made me want to press on, to see where he was going, even though I found most of his narrative a slog.

There were astounding moments. The funeral of Ayatollah Khomeini was gorgeous prose. The discussion between Bill and George about the power of the terrorist to affect change was tense and convincing. Karen's time in the homeless shantytown was poetic and always shif
...more
Trevor
Jul 11, 2007 Trevor rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anybody
Shelves: literature
This is the only book I've ever read that I wanted to start reading again immediately after finishing it. I have read his description of two people watching the funeral of the Ayatollah Khomeini a dozen times. I wish I could have written that. The description of the mass wedding at the start of the book is also remarkable.
Sentimental Surrealist
Mao II centers around two events: the emergence of a reclusive author in New York and a hostage crisis in Lebanon. That both events are treated with the glibness and breakneck pace of news cycles isn't, in and of itself, reason to praise this novel, even if you consider that DeLillo does so as a commentary. What makes Mao II great, then, is that he goes all the way with commentary on the media, inviting the reader into the world of the twenty-four hour news rush, making you eagerly await every n ...more
Lara Messersmith-Glavin
I feel very safe when I read Delillo. I know I am going somewhere worthwhile, and I know that I can trust him to get me there smoothly and gently, that the time will pass and the journey and destination and details will all be taken care of. This novel is, by turns, deeply real and entirely metaphysical, an eloquent portrait of a small collection of individuals and individual drives and pains, and an entirely artificial means for Delillo to explore principles of art and meaning-making within the ...more
Rayroy
Sep 24, 2014 Rayroy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Even better upon a second reading, DeLillo books are ones that need demand two readings you read and see things with such vivid clearity, a wedding party escorted by a Russian Tank.

Hey America deal makers or diplomats, " Don't bring your problems to Beirut" or Syria,

The novel can't compete with the war and death on the 24-hour news networks shown without remorse, we relay on the carnage seen on CNN so we feel lucking about drinking our Coke-a-Cola with out bombs falling on our heads feel less
...more
Richard
Jul 11, 2008 Richard rated it liked it
I am a fan of Don DeLillo's artistic ambition and his want to address ideas more profound than simple character study. When Tom Wolfe wrote his diatribe against MFA writing programs and accused them of passing along a tradition of meaningless, nonempathetic stories rather than work that addresses morality and social meaning, he undermined his own argument with his own bare-faced self-promotion of _The Bonfire of the Vanities_, a work that may in essence have fit his own ideal but was poorly stru ...more
Hadrian
Aug 23, 2012 Hadrian rated it really liked it
Shelves: american, fiction
This is a Typical DeLillo - which is by no means bad. On the contrary.

First, I'd like to say that DeLillo's writing style is as ornate and expressive as ever.

This is more of a rambling discussion, a loose connection of thoughts on crowds, mass movements, the Unification Church, writers, New York, baseball, terrorism, and post-modernism. Sometimes DeLillo goes for multi-page conversations, and sometimes for little aphorisms which you can repeat to impress your friends and sound wise.

Again, the us
...more
Drew
Mar 06, 2011 Drew rated it liked it
DeLillo has always been good at capturing the way people actually talk -- syntax, cadence, etc.-- but his characters don't usually say things normal people say. They are always totally self-aware and generally pretty intelligent. They understand the psycho-socio-philosophical implications of lighting a cigarette; they get the significance of a half-second pause in a conversation. They can read each others' minds, finish each others' sentences. And this can be distracting, can take you right out ...more
Derek
The hardest thing about reading a Don Delillo novel is everything is quotable, every sentence he writes is a sentence only Don Delillo could've written, anyway you look at it. This is a short book, shouldn't take one more than a few days, but it's such a rich, deeply profound book that needs to be read slowly, with much concentration lest you miss out on all the cool stuff. Some of it isn't accessible, not right away, but when you mull over it, you do see it make sense. See it define your life s ...more
sologdin
Nov 01, 2014 sologdin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
A mess. Opens with the reactionary premise that “the future belongs to crowds” (16) and descends from there. Something about a reclusive writer and another writer kidnapped by Lebanese Maoists. I suspect there is a concordance here between the artist who wishes to remain out of the public spotlight and the artist who is forcibly hidden. Dunno. The whole thing is kinda gross.

My copy is a first edition, which has a Pynchon blurb on the back--no surprise he likes it, considering P’s own alleged rec
...more
Rafa
Apr 19, 2015 Rafa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Sobre el terrorismo en la era postmoderna. De los mejores del autor.
Mark
Jan 25, 2015 Mark rated it it was ok
The premise: terrorists have taken the place of writers (specifically novelists) as shapers of the public consciousness. Timely subject, nearly fifteen years later. But it takes great skill to make a subject like this dull as dish water. But Delillo, unfortunately, succeeded in doing just this.

We have Bill, a reclusive novelist who has, after decades, allowed himself to be photographed. We have Brita, the photographer, who in my estimation should have been the focal point of the entire novel. A
...more
Lane
Aug 20, 2012 Lane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novels
Maybe this is too well-written to merit only two stars. But mere technical competence shouldn't be enough for me at this point; there are also good unicyclists.

Much of the first half of the novel is taken up by pomo musings—poetic trains of thought about images on TV, how photographs are perfected by the deaths of their subjects, how they alter the memory of their subjects after death. There's also a lot about crowds: we see a sort of anxiety about collectivism experienced by Americans i.e. "ind
...more
Dan
Sep 23, 2011 Dan rated it did not like it
I once read an interview with DeLillo, where he claimed that he often liked to change or rearrange words in his sentences for the sound or effect it created, even if it ended up changing the meaning of the sentence entirely. For me, this just smacks of irresponsibility for someone held in such high literary esteem, and demonstrates his overriding pretentiousness as a novelist.

The characters in this novel speak without any realism, seeming to communicate only in profound aphorisms to pound home t
...more
Alan Chen
Apr 07, 2014 Alan Chen rated it really liked it
I really like the way the novel began: Bill is a reclusive writer a la J.D. Salinger, Scott his uber fan turn secretary and Karen the ex-moonie are 3 people who live together and are interdependent upon each other. Their back stories are fleshed out when Brita comes to photograph the author. It begins with Delillo's usual quirkiness but seems to go in a traditional narrative where the story expands as we get to know the characters and we develop a sense of who these people are. Then, in a little ...more
Holly
Jun 16, 2007 Holly rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2007
I'm in kind of a DeLillo hangover, where the images and ideas are still raw in my brain, and they kind of hurt, but I am better for having read them. In Mao II, DeLillo delves into the world of a renowned author and later links him to terrorism, drawing a comparison between writers and terrorists as societal participants. He is also concerned with the crowd as a cultural function or force. DeLillo's cultural commentary is prescient and spot-on. His observations are unspoken universal truths and ...more
Michael
Feb 15, 2011 Michael rated it liked it
What can you say? This is a good collection of situations and ideas. It might be the most digestible dose of DeLillo. (Most people would say White Noise, but this is more serious, however you want to take that.) It's not a great story, but there are interesting moments. The opening, set in a baseball stadium, is excellent, maybe even superior to the baseball stadium opening of Underworld, because it's less labored. Yeah, this might even be my favorite DeLillo. It's good to read him when you're w ...more
Nick
Dec 18, 2012 Nick rated it it was ok
Much to my disappointment, I found this mostly a tepid underwhelming experience, especially after being captured and swept away by Underworld. To me, this seems to be a treatise on the importance of author and the novel. But the aggrandized protagonist came across as no more than a writer specializing in run-on sentences whom infused his work with an inflated sense of importance.

Of course I wouldn't have finished it if there was nothing redeeming. I love Delillo's understated yet powerful prose
...more
Andrea
Apr 15, 2014 Andrea rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
While this doesn't come close to Underworld or Libra, the ideas are extremely enticing. I'm ranking it with Cosmopolisand Falling Man. Ambitious and damn good but not great. Yet DeLillo is still and always an exceptional author for me, and hey, this may not be a home run but the ball is way the hell out there.
Jeremy
Mar 27, 2016 Jeremy rated it it was amazing
Delillo's novels, with all of their portentous dread and paranoia about modern life, have often left me cold and unimpressed.

But somehow, I really enjoyed Mao II. Maybe it's because his prose here seems much more precise and focused than in White Noise, Libra and Underworld. Or maybe its because this book, about a reclusive American writer confronting a media saturated world of terrorism and ideological fervor, seems in its way just vastly more personal, more directly from the heart than anythi
...more
Mark Sacha
The most simple way to read DeLillo is to approach his characters' prophecies as direct addresses to the reader, statements made on the meaning of the text in which they appear. Clearly Don intends us to take these ideas seriously, but I'm not convinced he wants us to accept them automatically. His major characters are often satirical archetypes - the media executive, the financial executive, the assassin, the college professor, and here, the reclusive writer - and the things they say, revealing ...more
Adam Cherson
Apr 06, 2014 Adam Cherson rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I rate this book a 3.53 on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being best. Written sometime around 1990, this book looks tame in comparison to subsequent history. Nevertheless the elements present today are all there: the alienated individualists, the cultists, the idolators, the extremists, the capitalists, the observers, and the hedonists, all melding together to paint a picture of dimness. This is my second DeLillo (Underworld) and my sense is of a writer holding himself back, perhaps for commercial pur ...more
Victoria Vila
Mar 27, 2016 Victoria Vila rated it it was amazing
"He is saying terror is what we use to give our people their place in the world. What used to be achieved through work, we gain through terror. Terror makes the new future possible. All men one man. Men live in history as never before. He is saying we make and change history minute by minute. History is not the book or the human memory. We do history in the morning and change it after lunch."

Delillo makes comparisons and contrasts between the individualist and those of a mass group; the impact o
...more
Bogdan
Jun 26, 2014 Bogdan rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: new-world
I had pretty high expectations before starting it, as I have seen some extremely appreciative articles about him and his books. I expected a novel in the style of contemporary realism. Instead I got a novel full of interminable descriptions, lack of actual events and also centered on characters thoughts. Just the type of literature that I don't like.

The premise is hard to find. DeLillo probably wanted to write this novel in order to draw attention to several events from contemporary history that
...more
Emily Whelchel
Dec 10, 2014 Emily Whelchel rated it it was ok
What I Liked
The writing in Mao II is powerful, stunning, and lovely. Each sentence is structured with care and perfection. Descriptions of mass events and roaring crowds are immersing. I don't know if I've ever rated something so low that was written so well, but I could never get into this book. I did not enjoy this read. And I will not come away a changed person from reading it. The profound message that DeLillo labored to pound into the reader didn't wash over me.

What I Didn't Like
I hated the
...more
AC
Jan 30, 2013 AC rated it liked it
I'm not a big fan of DeLillo..., he doesn't impress me.
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Don DeLillo is an American author best known for his novels, which paint detailed portraits of American life in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. He currently lives outside of New York City.

Among the most influential American writers of the past decades, DeLillo has received, among author awards, a National Book Award (White Noise, 1985), a PEN/Faulkner Award (Mao II, 1991), and an American
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“The future belongs to crowds.” 256 likes
“He wanted to fuck her loudly on a hard bed with rain beating on the windows.” 117 likes
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